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Young Farmer Outlook

Young farmers identify challenges but embrace technology.

Young farmers are cautiously hopeful about the 2018 farm year.

Low crop prices, being more efficient, and production issues are some of their biggest challenges. Most appealing to them is today’s farm technology, working with family, and the gratification of feeding the world.

Here’s what some local young farmers have to say about farming this year.

Josh Faivre, 25 – Agronomy Manager
J.P. Faivre Partnership, DeKalb

Outlook: My outlook for this year is neutral, but hopeful. I’m hoping we get a run up in crop prices sometime during the year and that we continue to see good yields.

Changes: Due to the current economy, we have changed our crop rotation from nearly all corn to roughly 1/3 soybeans and 2/3 corn. We have also adopted variable rate seed and fertilizer technology to become more efficient and increase our yields. And we have added a drone to our toolbox for crop scouting and making crop management decisions.

Challenges: Right now our biggest challenge is the low crop prices. Some of the other challenges facing us are keeping up with the advances in technology and implementing them in a beneficial and economical way, as well being able to take all the data our machines generate and using that to make informed crop decisions. Another challenge we face is the public perception of farming.

Appeal: What keeps me interested in farming is the challenge of growing better crops year after year and incorporating new ideas and technology into our operation. I enjoy the puzzle of crop planning and running machinery. I look forward to seeing where farming is going in the future.

Dan Hartmann, 29 – Hog Feed & Nutrition Specialist
Hartmann Farms, Maple Park

Outlook: Our outlook for 2018 is to continue to keep up with production numbers set by larger farms. With the hog industry growing into a more commercialized industry, it can be difficult for a smaller family farm to produce with the same efficiencies.

Changes: Some changes we are making mainly revolve around updating and replacing old and worn out facilities. The current prices of hogs and corn have allowed us to remodel old and worn out buildings. This results in a better living environment for our hogs and the ability to increase production.

Challenges: Our biggest challenge every year is staying vigilant with our biosecurity. Many other hog farms will admit that good biosecurity practices is one of the biggest things you can do to keep your herd healthy and productive.

Appeal: I think what keeps me most interested in farming is the satisfying feeling of raising animals and growing crops to feed not only our family, but thousands of families throughout the world.

Justin Martz, 31 – Partner
Larson Farms Partnership, Maple Park

Outlook: 2018 could turn out to be a similar year to 2017 where soybeans are definitely more economical than corn. But the struggle is to maintain our current rotations and yet try to maximize our profit potential by planting the more profitable crop.

Changes: No specific changes are being made this year. We have been in a “tightening of the belt” period for the last few years so we have been running equipment more hours than we have in the past. There is less room to run trials on new products without a more definite return. This is a very important time to make sure we have confidence in the people around us as well as the products we are using.

Challenges: My challenge is identifying areas in which we can improve to make 2018 better than 2017. We have to ask ourselves, is there something we can pay more attention to that will put more bushels in the bin or keep more change in our pockets? An example would be since soybeans are more profitable, how can we get them planted sooner to maximize yield?

Appeal: Technology is always changing on the farm and that keeps me going. We are in a technology boom with constantly new products coming to the marketplace to make jobs easier or just for better decision making. The challenge is sorting through all of it and finding the products that best fit the needs of our farm.

Jacob Willrett, 25 – Partner
Willrett Natural Farm, Malta

Outlook: 2018 looks great. After a decline in commodity prices over the last few years, the organic market is starting to head back up. We look forward to what the year has in store.

Changes: As the demand remains steady for organic food, the organic grain market has continued to stay strong. I focus on finding new innovative ways to incorporate technology into the farm to increase efficiency. Organic farming has become less of a trial and error and more of a structured system. My father and I are always trying to improve and learn new ways to be better farmers.

Challenges: Our biggest challenge has been keeping our organic corn GMO free. In recent years we have struggled with pollen drift from neighboring GMO corn fields. Our buyers test for GMO content and if it tests above the threshold it is heavily discounted and rejected for food grade. We are still trying to learn how we can avoid this issue.

Appeal: Organic farming is challenging, but that is what makes it so great. The thing that I truly enjoy the most is working side by side with Pa. I have never met a farmer who is more open to new ideas and innovation. It is always easy to jump out of bed every morning knowing I get to do what I love with the man that shares the same passion.